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Home » Featured content » Experts voice: top 7 tips to stand out as an ethical business (v.1)

Experts voice: top 7 tips to stand out as an ethical business (v.1)

Can you identify the critical factors that make a sustainable and ethical business stand out from competitors? You do not need magic tricks to distinguish your business and shine. Being honest, staying true to yourself, and bringing real value to the market will go a long way.

Throughout the past few months, we’ve interviewed professionals in ethical business branding and marketing and asked for their opinions on the most important aspects of marketing strategies that DO work as well as the most common mistakes. This article is a summary of their advice and opinions. We are grateful for everyone’s input and we are looking forward to hearing more great thoughts and stories from the specialists in this field.

If you are an expert in building and promoting ethical or green brands or just starting out your sustainable business journey, we’d be happy to hear your questions/thoughts in the comments section and please apply to participate in the interview series.

Honesty will make a sustainable business stand out amongst other players. 

We have long accepted the fact that the performance of the business can be measured by means other than financial profits and adopted Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as an integral part of a business rather than an exception. However, in reality, many ethical companies no longer treat sustainability as a ‘nice’ attitude but are embracing a holistic way of running a company placing their mission at the core of all their actions.

Experts worldwide identify transparency and honesty as essential factors to stand out as a green business. Transparency has become the number one component of sustainable business strategy and a must-have element to build credibility and accountability, as noted by Gary Steele for Forbes Magazine. Customers are paying significantly more attention to where their products are coming from, who made them, and in what conditions, forcing companies to reveal the details of their supply chain. Steele mentions the survey conducted by Sprout Social, which clearly shows that transparency matters for consumers more than ever. An overwhelming number of 89% of the respondents claimed that a business would regain their trust if ‘it’s been completely transparent about a mistake.’

The word we all dread is consistency.

Many entrepreneurs in the sustainability sector have innovative ideas, but how many can make their green business stand out? The answer is a few. The brutal truth is that success requires tedious, often apparently insignificant daily work, sending out emails, keeping in touch with potential clients, researching, and networking. Like a relationship, an ethical business doesn’t require excessive effort to keep going when the early excitement is still alive. Still, a sustainable company needs you to keep going even in the most hopeless moment. Consistency helps the business smoothly coordinate all actions toward achieving a greater goal. Brand consistency is equally important if you look to make an ethical business stand out. Forbes Magazine claims that consistent branding is the key to getting it right. Consistency supports building a trustworthy relationship with your customers. A cohesive, authentic brand means aligning all the aspects of the business to deliver the experience you promised. HubSpot lists brands such as fitness chain GymIt or ethical cosmetic producer Lush amongst the most consistent brands in the world, and for a reason. They deliver not only the same product but an authentic and harmonious experience across the company, which makes their customers loyal to the brand. 

The Triple Bottom Line and a strong value proposition to make your business get where you want (and stand out).

Green businesses often struggle with applying traditional measures to assess the company’s efficiency. The Triple Bottom Line refers to three crucial factors that evaluate sustainable businesses’ performance: social, environmental, and financial. Introducing social and environmental dimensions distinguishes this method from the traditional reporting structure. These three factors are known as the 3Ps – people, planet, and profits. Going beyond conventional values associated with the success of a business, the Triple Bottom Line has been incorporated by the private and public, commercial, and nonprofit sectors to ensure the company’s efficiency. Businesses applying the TBL method can face difficulties related to lacking a universal unit of measure (such as currency for measuring financial profits). However, introducing the TBL into the business allows it to determine long-term goals and evaluate decisions from a more objective point of view, with the flexibility to adjust the measures to its individual demands. Measuring your performance gives a basis for creating a solid value proposition. A powerful value proposition outlines what distinguishes your brand from the competitors and why your customers should stay with you. It identifies all the benefits of the product or service you provide. A suitable value proposition, communicated in a clear, direct way, can turn leads into paying customers and make ethical businesses stand out in the market.  

Can you name a few companies which stand out with green business marketing?

Authenticity, transparency, and a strong value proposition are the bottom-line of a sustainable business. Still, effective green marketing is paramount for a sustainable company to stand out in the market. Business as Lush, Patagonia and Ben and Jerry’s are widely recognized for their commitment to sustainability (source Treedom). They also know how to market their products in a way that sends a clear, attractive message to their customers. Even the most ethical, green company desires a strong brand positioning and communication strategy to showcase its objectives. While green marketing can cost a company more than traditional marketing, often, its benefits outweigh the disadvantages. Relying on local producers can be more expensive than outsourcing labor in less-developed countries, but it also means a shorter supply chain and, consequently, a smaller carbon footprint. Customers worldwide are increasingly aware of companies offering jobs to local communities and providing fair wages and working conditions. Investing in local manufacturers could bring more clients to the business from the start. The authenticity of the company is crucial when engaging with green marketing. You can easily be accused of greenwashing if your marketing campaign is not backed with facts and actual actions. This can damage a company’s reputation for years, if not generations. We don’t need to look far to see examples of greenwashing businesses. Energy Tracker Asia mentions one of the biggest plastic polluters, Coca-Cola, which was accused of greenwashing for its claims on the company’s commitment to reducing plastic waste and ending up losing a court case. Being associated with greenwashing can often be more damaging for a small company trying to stand out as a green business.

Having fun can help your company to stand out as a green business.

Success is measured in many ways, and making a sustainable business stand out in the competitive market might seem challenging. However, in the end, it’s equally important to enjoy your success and derive satisfaction from your work. It does not necessarily mean having fun every minute of your work and laughing away with your employees at every Zoom meeting. That said, creating a rewarding environment where people feel appreciated and are given space to enjoy their job can significantly contribute to the success and visibility of your business.

Further reading:

Latest tips and advice for green businesses

Our fresh list of 100+ green business ideas

Interviews with green business owners.

Check out our resources library.

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